There are many companies that teach seminars and even college credit classes focused on the topic of created a noteworthy presentation. For those of you who are still looking to improve, here are ten steps which, if followed, will get you 80% of the way to outstanding presentation skills. As a bonus, here is how to get started: close that blank PowerPoint presentation that you had opened because you need to think first.
- Know what results you actually want from the presentation- Be honest! If all you want is to impress the audience with your vocabulary, knowledge, and wit, then admit it. Usually the desired outcome is an action you want the audience to perform: closing a sale, making a correction in business tactics, or perhaps going in a new strategic direction. Think carefully about what you want your audience to do! This is your win for the presentation. Now, write your goal down on a stick note and put it on the wall in front of your face. It is far too easy to forget the main purpose when you get deep into putting the actual presentation together. Make it so visible that every time you look up from the keyboard, you will see your note.
- Define the audience members- Who are they? What is their role? Are they supporters? Are they sceptics? Decision makers? Influencers? Vetoers? What is their age, intellectual, and cultural background? The more you can know about them, the better chance you have of getting the results of Step 1. Write down anything you know in a list. Hint: skipping the part about writing this down will guarantee that you will not convince them. It is a mental trick on yourself, so use it!
- Take the list and write in one sentence why they care- Are they concerned? Do they want something? Are they scared of something? You are defining the wins and losses for the audience, and to be successful you need to address each of these items. Note: “so they will understand” is not a reason for your audience to attend the presentation. They want or are worried about something.
- Presentation logistics- You need to write this down as well; consider whether this will be an in person or electronic communication. Will the audience be able to see a visual presentation, or will it be solely audio? What time of day/week will it take place> Are they going to be at a biorhythm high or low? What are the culture considerations? How long do you have for the presentation?
- List three points you intend to make- This means only three points. People do not remember or even notice anything over three major points, but they also may actually get insulted and feel their time was wasted when only one point is made. This is not an easy step because you have to address all concerns listed in Step three while still requesting the result of Step 1.
- Write the conclusion first- This goes back to Step 1 because people tend to remember the last, most important, and first things they head in a presentation, in that order. Make sure the last thing they hear or see is the very best. This should include all three of your points and a request for your win from Step 1. Please do not end with a question and answer session! This is a guaranteed way to ensure the presentation is less memorable than the odd unanticipated question which inevitably comes up. If you must do a Q&A session, then give your conclusion after that time.
- Define a few example stories for the three points- This means only for the three points! If you tell an entertaining story which does not illustrate/support one of those points, you have potentially replaced a significant point with an insignificant piece of entertainment.
- Pictures and diagrams- These can be great, but only if they illustrate one of the points. The same risk as Step 7 applies here.
- Practice, practice, then practice again- You should have your presentation memorized by the time you finish practicing. This enables you to maintain audience contact as well as bolsters confidence during the actual presentations.
- Retrospect- Shortly after the presentation is complete, sit and evaluate your work, consider the message given and the methods you used, and then think carefully about how you handled yourself as the presenter. Write all of these thoughts down so that the next presentation will be even better.